On our waterfront: from Sunday Times 'City'

I've become a huge fan of the City section of the NYTimes. First, I was a Style junkie (before living in NYC), then of the Real Estate section last year, but there's only so much pining I can do, so now I reach for the City section first. I love the clips from neighborhoods. There's always a genuine human angle to the stories, less "news at 10," more personable.

Today's City section highlights a couple of waterfronts: LIC and Tribeca. I especially liked what Tom Fox, the president of New York Water Taxi and founder of the Neighborhood Open Space Coalition, said of his effort to bring some activity to LIC's waterfront. Of the beach he set up, Fox said, "This is the kind of stuff that brings people to the waterfront...And once they're on the waterfront, they get invested and it becomes their waterfront."

Some honesty about downtown Brooklyn

(This rendering from NYC Dept of Planning makes the whole thing look more innocuous, doesn't it? Don't be fooled!)

When I read this Metropolis article about Brooklyn's proposed downtown development, I couldn't wait until the online version was released so I could share it. Kudos to Karrie Jacobs for being honest about change in her backyard.


Elizabeth at Spring

Update: I just liked this little sign with the suggested rainbow behind it. For some substance on the building, visit Personism's post, or, the granddaddy of stories behind the building, Curbed.


More on consumption

This is a little indulgent. I find that I catch stories that fit into my amateur theory (and I acknowledge, it's well explored in a much more complex manner by true social scientists) that our consumer purchasing trends and culture shape our built environment.

I just like watching how it happens. That's why I like that self-storage fluff so much. So, ta-da, a couple that fit the bill...

From the country that clings to its town squares and pedestrian linkages, a "smart mall." - Christian Science Monitor

We can't give up our cars, so let's make our cars different, how about it? - NYTimes

Self-storage: a new context?

Do you ever walk around a neighborhood with old, beautiful loft buildings, only to discover that Manhattan Mini-Storage already outfitted the entire building with hundreds of self-storage units? (Think: Hudson Street off Canal). And it's not just here. While I was on Virginia's Eastern Shore, a much less consumer-rich region, I heard that the growth of self storage buildings there now competes with the tomato crops. This NYTimes article tells us why:

"As competition for commercial real estate has intensified, investors are gravitating toward self-storage because it offers initial yields of 7 percent or more, well above apartment buildings."
Well. I never knew. And now how about some blending in:
"These are chameleon-like projects," said Ariel L. Valli, an architect in Aliso Viejo, Calif., whose firm has designed 350 storage facilities, including the elegant Spanish-style Date Palm Storage in Cathedral City, outside Palm Springs. "They need to blend in - - in size, shape, texture, color landscaping. Then they are better received."
Ah, making it easier for us to buy, store and forget about it.


New York City's public spaces

I have a backlog, but thought this was worth posting right away. Harvey Robins, former aide to Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins, offers a vision for New York that focuses on public spaces, and the funding to do that. I'm not experienced enough in city budget management to know if this would work, but I always like it when people offer alternatives, not just criticisms.


Word, Costco

Well, Costco builds ginormous stores, but at least the company offers a more livable employee policy. The folks at theboxtank offer some good insight.


Eeks! East Village, Vegas-style

The news hit last month, but these photo-sims are astounding. Need I say more?

Via Curbed, where you can view more pix.
And officially from the Las Vegas Business Press.


A smart growth and sustainable Wal-Mart?

After the fascinating discussion about politics and the use of language to frame issues in this past Sunday's NYTimes Magazine, I guess I shouldn't be so surprised to see a Wal-Mart representative frame their newest store in Texas in this way:

"We see it as a next step in evaluating the impact we leave on the environment as we look toward smart growth and sustainability in the building of our new stores," said Mike Duke, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores - USA. "This store will contain many of the best resource conservation and sustainable design technologies currently available to minimize the use of energy and natural resources."
Here's what Wal-Mart is focusing on to make the store "sustainable:"

* Reducing the amounts of energy and natural resources required to
operate and maintain the stores
* Reducing the amount of raw materials needed to construct the facility.
* Substituting, when appropriate the amount of renewable materials used
to construct and maintain the facility.

Smart growth? Sustainable? Conservation? Minimize use of energy and natural resources? The most obvious breaches of those goals is the store is still new construction in the middle of nowhere, out of scale and off center.

Still, I don't want to be only the naysayer. It's good that they're monitoring the environmental impact of the store; stay tuned for more gooey factoids from this part of Texas. And this is a nuanced issue: check out the story about Vancouver rejecting a "green" Wal-Mart.


Michael Sorkin offers 10 alternate sites for NYC's "stadia"

I'm prone to just accepting Michael Sorkin's jaunty yet hard-hitting prose. There's something about it that makes you want to believe and I find myself at my most uncritical. So here, he weighs in the future NYC stadium, offering 10 alternative sites after first condemning public subsidization of big projects. See if you can resist.


Finally, the good kind of attention on Atlantic Yards

From Naparstek.com

Aaron Naparstek writes thoughtfully in the NY Press about the limelight on the Atlantic Yards...the kind of limelight that one hoped would shine on this important project.


Oil and more oil

Today's NYTimes talks about China's alarming and growing dependency on oil, NJ's crumbling transportation infrastructure and its inability to fund future repairs, and increasing oil prices against complacent consumer behavior. The sentence that stays with me is from one of the interviewees who drives an SUV:

"That's like having an obesity problem," he said, "and being told you need a smaller shirt."
This is the counterpoint to the oft-used analogy about widening roads, likening adding another lane to getting bigger pants as a means to solve a person's obesity problem.

Obesity isn't necessarily an inept analogy - afterall, the U.S. transportation infrastructure and policies are a true reflection of our habits as consumers both in our demand for it and our inability to fund it. But as any seasoned public health official can tell you, consumer behavior is one of the most difficult things to change. Uh-oh.

Rich people + McDonald's = McMansions???

This year's award for "Dumbest Column to show up in a Glossy." Among the choice phrases that helped garner the prize: "Since 80 percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas, aren't they at least 80 percent guilty?" You'll recall the New Yorker article (pdf) that illustrated how people living in denser settings actually make fewer demands on natural resources. Too bad the author is so intent on pitting rural dwellers against urbanites that he misses the bigger opportunity to highlight the intrinsic interdependence that we - urbanists and ruralists and those in between - all have on our natural resources.


Seeking independent America

Two ex-television journalists, Heather Hughes and Hanson Hosein, are driving across the US, trying to take the independent route - no interstates, no chains. Here's an interview with them in Nebraska (10,800 miles into their journey) and you can keep up with their journey on their own blog.

Let's try this out in NYC

I really like this - it's nothing edgy, just a simple idea. Vienna and the merchants association allowed artists to try covering all brands on a busy shopping street.

Sure, the artists won permission by arguing that the merchants would experience an increase in shopping because everyone would be curious about the exhibit. (So persuasive were they that the Chamber of Commerce became the biggest contributor to the project's $245,000 budget).

Delete! web site


Take back the streets...

...so this is what happens when I am out playing - missed out on this great commentary by John Massengale on NYC streets last Friday. And the PPS opinion on our beloved streets.


Muggy MoMA

I finally took some vacation-at-home days and paid a long overdue visit to the MoMA. We love sitting in the cafe overlooking the sculpture garden, and we ended our visit with a few minutes in the garden, which was closed when we were last there.

The MoMA has inspired some of the most passionate dislike from my peers and friends, but I kind of like how the people rough up the spare lines of the building. It feels very modern, and the museum has become a place onto its own...there were plenty of people eating lunch in the garden that weren't there to visit the galleries. Maybe there are parts of the museum that are lacking, but on a muggy June day, it was the place to be.

An opening at SFAA

Finally, after months of walking by and wondering what it looks like open, here it is....Storefront for Art and Architecture....open.